(The original date of this blog was April 2018, but I never published it.)
I’ve decided to start a digital detox challenge for myself. My time and attention are the two most important things I have, but I have taken them for granted for too long.
My Introduction To Digital Tech
I’ve always been at the forefront of consumer technology. In 1989, I was watching my dad download games to our Commodore 64 from the Navy LAN (before the internet existed) and send electronic mail, before AOL. By 1996, I was building my first website hosted on Geocities and built-in FrontPage Express. I taught myself to build my first custom PC at the age of 16 in 1998. I was installing my own car stereos in my first car in the year 2000. Before Facebook, Myspace, and YouTube, back when meeting people online was taboo, I was part of several online communities that no longer exist. I even got catfished twice before the term even existed.
Throughout the years, I played all the consoles from Atari, NES, SNES, Sega, Sega CD, Sega Dreamcast and I even got into emulators in the very early 2000’s so I was able to eventually play all the consoles of the past. Naturally (and through series of unforeseen events) I ended up making a living in the digital landscape. Even though I’m fascinated by technology and it is a major part of my life, I want to get away from it. Unfortunately, escaping the digital noise of the world is nearly impossible for me. I know there is a problem with my connection to the digital world and I am trying to find a way out.
At 35, I would describe my current state of life (physical, emotional, and spiritual) as out of whack. I’m having what many would consider an identity crisis and an overwhelming sense of too much digital connection and not enough connectedness to what really matters the most. I’ve actually felt this way since about 2009, but back then, I didn’t even have a smartphone and used a mobile service that required no contract. To “get away” I would simply cut my phone off for a month at a time until I felt better. Since then, it’s progressively become worse and has caused nearly every aspect of my life to suffer: work, family, relationships, and creative endeavors.
In November 2017, I started taking Xanax for the first time in my life. My anxiety level had hit the roof and I felt that I couldn’t cope. Parenting my 5-year-old and 2-year-old has become a major struggle as it takes much of my energy away. My physical health has been stagnant and growing worse for 5 years. My creative juices aren’t flowing anymore, as I have a deadline for a film I started writing in January and I haven’t begun to produce it. At one point, I started having thoughts of ending my relationship because I felt that I was dragging her down with me. I normally don’t drink, but this year, I started drinking regularly on the weekends. I actually quit my job in January 2018 for what I thought was a better opportunity, just to find out that I wanted to go back in the first week at my new employment. I was a mess. Fortunately, I ended up back in my previous place of employment and have stopped drinking and relying on Xanax to sleep at night.
This sudden change in habits is the catalyst for my digital detox challenge.
Several months ago, I read a book by author Jason Gregory titled Fasting The Mind. I’ve read many of his books before and seen his YouTube videos that have really started helping me get moving on a more positive spiritual journey. The only issue is that I have not found the time to put a plan into action and use the advice in his books. Some of it, at the moment, is not practical for me, but it is very inspiring and it has been one of the many catalysts for me to attempt a digital detox challenge.
Preparing For My Digital Detox Challenge
I want to focus on five key actions to jumpstart my digital detox challenge. Here they are, in no particular order:
- At the end of this blog post, I will be creating a log to track my use of all tech devices. From there, I will determine the behavior I want to cut down on or eliminate.
- I plan on sharing my experience with my partner to help make me accountable for my behavior and to encourage me to stick with the digital detox.
- I want to identify five negative consequences of my technology use and five positive results that will come from cutting down or changing my technology use.
- I will create Post It Notes with statements such as “I want to be in control of my choices around technology” around my home, car, and office.
- At the end of each day, I’ll write down something about my experience with the process.
My 15-Day Digital Detox Challenge
My 15-Day Digital Detox Challenge is cumulative — with each action item, I will continue to practice the previous action items. By Day 15, I will hopefully be practicing these new behaviors below:
Day 1. Pay attention to and internally note every time I feel the impulse or hear the thought to check one of my devices or computer. When I notice this, ask myself, “Am I checking out of habit?” and “Is this checking necessary right now?” If the answer is “Habit” or “Not Necessary,” then repeat to myself “Stop” and do just that. Simultaneously, designate three times in the day when I am allowed to check my device, whether necessary or not.
Day 2. Refrain from any tech use when socializing or otherwise interacting with people. This includes everyone — shopkeepers, waiters, and service people as well as my family and friends.
Day 3. Refrain from holding any device in my hand or keeping it in my pocket when it’s not in use. Store it out of sight elsewhere.
Day 4. Refrain from using any of my devices during the first hour after I wake up in the morning. If using my smartphone as an alarm clock, treat it as such. Turn it completely off as soon as it’s sounded my morning wake-up.
Day 5. Refrain from using tech devices during the last hour before I go to bed.
Day 6. Turn off all alerts and notifications on my device.
Day 7. Refrain from using my devices on public transportation or in taxis.
Day 8. Write down four activities or experiences that nourish my spirit. Keep these simple and accessible — not the climbing-to-the-summit-of-Mount-Everest sort. Give myself one of these experiences today, and get one on the calendar for each week to come. Continue this practice weekly after my detox as well.
Day 9. Refrain from using my devices while waiting in line — any kind of line.
Day 10. Refrain from using technology in the car, except when needing GPS assistance.
Day 11. Refrain from using while waiting for something to begin, such as a movie, a play, a concert or a social interaction.
Day 12. Refrain from using during events — for example, at concerts, the theater or children’s recitals.
Day 13. Make my bathroom a tech-free zone.
Day 14. Refrain from using technology while walking on the street.
Day 15. Make my bedroom a tech-free zone. Remove all devices and computers and refrain from using in the room or area where I sleep.
Digital Detox Challenge Activity Log
Below I will outline a day-to-day occurrence of my digital detox challenge.
April 18, 2018
I’m finding it impossible to get away from digital devices. For one, I work in digital marketing and do all the SEO for my companies’ website, so I’m literally on a computer or mobile device all day long.
Also, I’m finding myself constantly looking at my phone. To try to prevent this, I deactivated my Instagram account, just to turn around and reactivate it out of fear of losing my photos. Eventually, I deleted all the social media apps on my phone, but I still find myself either checking my accounts on my computer at work, home, or on my phone’s browser.
So far, my digital detox is not looking good.
Emotionally, I’m not doing well. I’m moody and negative. I keep finding conflicts with everyone and nearly everything out my mouth is negative. I hate that so much that I put a Post It note on my computer monitor at work that simply says “Be Positive.”
Work is starting to get to me and I’m finding it hard to focus. Projects are piling up and deadlines are approaching. We are way understaffed and being expected to perform miracles, which has been the norm. I think in the past, my natural instinct was to plug in my headphones and listen to ASMR videos (yes, I’m one of those people), but as I try to ease into this digital detox challenge, I want to get away from relying on any digital tech for comfort.
I’ve recently started dieting on top of this, so I’m not eating more than 1800 calories a day and finding it hard (and tempting) to break this diet. Fortunately, I’m sticking to it and have lost weight since I started. This is a source of some happiness, but I really hope that this attempt to ween myself from devices turns into a full blow food addiction.
December 2, 2019
Welp, I never published this blog. Obviously, I never went through with this full detox – I failed miserably.
However, here I am a year and a half later, going through the same thing. I will try to fill in the gaps from the last entry to now in a short paragraph:
After April, I started seeing progress in a lot of areas of my life. My job started getting better, I lost about 35 pounds, and started feeling better… but then I got injured. This threw me into a spiral of depression and I started eating more and gaining weight again. Eventually all the weight was back on. I was also abusing Xanax and taking my month supply in about two weeks, which caused all sorts of emotional and mental issues.
I left my stable, high-paying job, to go to a higher paying job and only lasted there about 7 months before I quit in January 2019. I was unemployed for about 2 months before I got a new job, that I am currently in. I also have a side job to supplement the loss of income, so essentially, I am working two jobs. I stopped taking Xanax in late 2018 and was prescibed Proplanolol. I only took that for about 3 months and got off because it started causing major panic attacks and my dependency was through the roof with it.
I have been completely sober off prescription medication and alcohol (with the exception of an occasional social drink about once a month) for most of the year and I finally feel like myself. I started going to therapy about 5-6 weeks ago and it’s incredibly expensive, but I have started healing already. I was diagnosed with PTSD and started learning more about my behavior and attachment style. Read more about overcoming fearful-avoidant attachment style.
Through this, I have made the decision to exit social media and re-kickstart my digital detox again. I have already downloaded all the data from my social media accounts. I plan to pull the plug on New Years Eve… maybe sooner.
After that, I will start the 15-step digital detox steps listed above and then come on here to document daily.